The Squaw Man (1914)
In conjunction with veteran filmmaker Oscar Apfel, young director Cecil B. DeMille made his directorial debut and American movie history with this dramatic filmization of a once-popular Broadway melodrama. Six reels long, it was one of the first full-length feature films made in the United States--for many years it was considered the first U.S.-made feature, but then, in 1996, a 55-minute-long copy of The Life and Death of King Richard III, dated from 1912, was found in an Oregon basement. Edwin Milton Royle's play was originally set in Wyoming, but DeMille and Apfel decided to film on location in Flagstaff Arizona. Bad weather and rough conditions forced the film crew further west. They ended up on the northern outskirts of Los Angeles leasing two-thirds of a barn located on Vine and Selma Streets. The outfit they established would become Paramount Studios and the location, Hollywood. DeMille would become known as the father of Hollywood as there were no other active studios or film crews around, but two years before, Nestor Studios had an outpost in the same area. The plot chronicles the exploits of a disgraced English blueblood who comes to Wyoming after taking the blame for a theft committed by the husband of the woman he secretly loved. Once out West, he saves a beautiful Indian girl from the grasp of a lustful lout. Later the maiden returns to save his life. The two become lovers and following her pregnancy, they marry. The noble becomes a pariah and is called "The Squaw Man" by locals. Tragedy brews when his true love arrives from England with good news: her husband confessed on his death bed and now the exiled nobleman can return home to become the Earl of Kerhill. This has a devastating effect on his loyal wife, who facing the arrest for the murder of the lout, commits suicide. With her gone, the nobleman takes his child and returns home to make a new life with his true love. In making the film, DeMille and Apfel encountered many problems. When a special effects explosion went awry, DeMille was nearly blown up. Later, both directors dealt with attempts by the then all-powerful Patent Company to get them to cease production. At one point, DeMille found hundreds of feet of negative trampled (he fortunately, made a copy). At other times he received death threats and was twice shot at. During post production, the filmmakers used a cut- rate machine to punch the sprocket holes in the film. As a result the film stock had 65 holes per foot instead of the necessary 64. This caused a disastrous premiere in which the film was nearly unviewable. Fortunately, DeMille took the film to Philadelphia exhibitor and film stock expert Sigmund Lubin (who ironically was one of the founders of the Patent Company) who kindly pointed out the problem and helped subsequent copies of The Squaw Man run flawlessly. The film was a box-office smash and brought in over $250,000. … More
as Capt. James Wyngate
as The Dowager Lady Ker...
as Cash Hawkins
as Sir John
as Big Bill
as Dowager Lady Kerhill
as Lady Mabel Wyngate
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Even by the standards of a 1914 feature, it would be a stretch to call this an especially sophisticated piece of filmmaking.
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